Some people never learn. They're in hot water today for the same reasons that earned them a seat in principals office every week as kids: Saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. Most have erred at one time or another, but this is post-1984, significant only because George Orwell miscalculated: “Big Brother” is not the government, but is, "We The People."
Americans seem relatively tense, and there is not much forgiveness for calculated or accidental misstep, most likely due to several coinciding events: big business mistrust (banking, housing, automotive), scam artists (Bernie Madoff), and a struggling economy. Today, the slightest of mistakes could spark a ruckus. Just ask Carrie Prejean, the “I missed it by that much” Ms. America contestant. Ms. Prejean learned a brutal lesson on the world stage; sometimes it's better to lie if you want to win...at least that's what we want to teach America's children (heavy sarcasm implied). She made a choice based on her personal morals and First Amendment rights, and took a beating.
Polar opposites using the First Amendment for profit, such as Howard Stern and Jay Severin, have also stated controversial things in public. However, they do it for ratings and money. Both radio personalities are actually very different in message, methodology, and delivery; yet one common element binds them: when they go on-air listeners either tune in or turn off. This week, Jay Severin was suspended from WTKK in Boston for making racially biased comments regarding Mexicans, stating that the major imports from Mexico were venereal disease, women with mustaches, and the swine flu. He then went on to state that Mexicans were “primitives.”
Boston's Jay SeverinFrom there, the plot is as easy to follow as a daytime television drama:
A. DJ offends a person, or group of persons, publicly
B. Offended group calls radio station in "flood of protest"
C. DJ is suspended or fired; station backs DJ or backs off
D. The First Amendment is mentioned several million times
E. “Oppressed“ groups rehash incident for weeks
F. DJ fades away or returns in a different market
The usually talkative Severin was silent when questioned by reporters, directing them to his attorney, who stated, "It would certainly be unfortunate if someone was suspended because some people didn't like what he said." Sounds like Mr. Severin needs a new attorney.
Lost His Dog, His Wife, & His FreedomThe radio business has been volatile in the past week as San Antonio-based radio giant Clear Channel announced further staff reductions (1950 were cut in January) that would include on-air personalities. Additionally, a popular Florida DJ for Clear Channel was arrested for shooting his dog…unfortunately the bullet ricocheted off his dog, hitting his wife in the head. Both the wife and dog are expected to recover, and the DJ is expected to go to jail.